Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cruise Port Review: Cartagena

Probably unfair for me to write a port review of this stop since we didn’t get any further than the cruise terminal. (Which, BTW, has crafts, jewelry and a beautiful garden area with ‘people-friendly’ macaws.) So this post is partly about what we learned from those who took tours or simply hired a taxi.

Those that went on tours sounded happy with what they did. Everyone enjoyed the visit to the San Felipe Fortress. Most enjoyed the old city. People who hired taxis paid anywhere from $15 to $25 pp based upon the number of people in the group and we didn't hear of any problems about the taxis. The only problem we heard, and this was consistent, was the aggressiveness of the street vendors. Everyone complained about how awful they were.

On board ship there was a local 16 page newspaper entitled 'Destination Cartagena' that I saw as I walked by the Passenger Services desk. (I think it should have been handed out to pax as they exited the ship....along with the shopping advertisements and port shopping map handed out at every port.) Nice item to pick up as it included information on the old walled city, buying emeralds, city history and a map.

One of the pages was a list of FAQs. The first question: “Is Cartegena dangerous”? Which we, like many people we spoke with, did wonder about. We had heard that Cartagena had done a lot, over the past few years, to improve safety and its image. Quoting from the answer "Contrary to conventional wisdom, Cartagena is very safe as long as you visit the normal tourist areas."

The last question had to do with the beaches. Typical of any tourist beach, there is the warning to carefully watch belongings. But it also adds "Vendors and hustlers of various types can be a real bother." Which was definitely verified by returning passengers. That alone is enough reason for me not to get off the ship. (And it made no difference if the passenger was on a cruise tour or a private taxi tour. Show the very slightest interest in anything and the vendors were all over you.)

Actually, several things kept us from going ashore. One was the question of safety. Another was the heat. And we have seen many South American old cities and fortresses and that wasn’t what we had taken this trip for. So we simply walked to the cruise terminal, visited with the macaws, and then walked back to the ship.

BTW, Princess did have a shuttle running back and forth from the ship to the terminal. But the walk was pleasant. Based upon the little we saw, the city has tried to make itself attractive. The pier was lined with large pots filled with beautiful flowers. The chain link fence along the commercial area of the port was covered with thick growing vines. And the garden area around the small terminal building was lovely.

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